Background: Since 1990, Pakistan has faced an unprecedented rate of urbanization, thereby resulting in the uncontrolled proliferation of slums (Katchi Abadis) in all large cities. These areas lack the basic municipal services such as safe water supply, sanitation and waste collection. There is limited access to quality health care services, both curative and preventive. Therefore, communities living in katchi abadis are faced with health seeking challenges and catastrophic expenditure to pay for health care services (formal or informal). Methods: This cross-sectional quantitative study was conducted in Islamabad, using a semi-structured questionnaire with mothers of children 5 years of age. There are 34 katchi abadis, 11 are recognized by the Capital Development Authority, out of which seven were included in the study. The calculated sample size was 207. Main findings: Average household income was found to be Pak Rupee 10,000 (approx.US$100) per month. Diarrhea, fever, common cold and cough were common illnesses among under 5 children. Approximately 43% of the mothers were illiterate and they preferred consulting a private doctor or a private dispenser in the katchi abadi. Mother’s level of education was significantly associated with the type of health provider consulted. Majority had to spend out of pocket, while many either borrowed money from relatives or friends or sold a household item. Delay in seeking health care added to the out of pocket expense. The mean cost on child’s treatment was approximately PkRs400 (approximately US$ 4) for a single consultation. Conclusion: There are several factors associated with health seeking behavior of mothers of children under the age of 5 years, living in the katchi abadis of Islamabad. The latter population group is one of the most vulnerable given their poor standard of living conditions. A multi-sectoral approach is needed to address the provision of basic amenities, the availability of safety nets to pay for health care is crucial to avoid catastrophic expenditure and the provision of community-based health promotion programs are essential to improve health seeking behaviors whilst simultaneously promoting and protecting health.
JournaltitleInternational Journal for Equity in Health